TrueHoop: Flopping

First Cup: Wednesday

June, 12, 2013
6/12/13
5:39
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: As Cornbread Maxwell noted after Boston destroyed the Lakers in Game 1 of the 1985 Finals, basketball isn’t backgammon. You don’t get extra credit for margin of victory. But the Spurs might have grounds to petition the NBA for a policy change after Game 3 of the Finals, in which they set a series record with 16 3-pointers en route to the third-largest rout in NBA championship history. At a certain point, it was almost comical. LeBron James, harassed by Kawhi Leonard into another legacy-staining disappearance. Danny Green and Gary Neal, playing better than they ever dreamed while slumming it overseas. And the best part – Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, the cornerstones of San Antonio’s championship success, sitting on the bench and enjoying the show as, for once, others did the heavy lifting. “You don’t expect it to go the way it did,” Duncan said. “But (I’m) loving our home court after getting blown out (in Game 2) to have that kind of…energy in the building, and to feed off that and our team to respond the right way. Hopefully we can respond even better to this win.” … History bodes well for the Spurs after Tuesday’s victory: Winners of Game 3 are 12-1 in the Finals since the 2-3-2 format was implemented in 1985, and 30-5 overall. Tuesday also marked Miami’s first loss while trailing or tied in the playoffs over the past two seasons, snapping a streak of 11 straight victories.
  • Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: Where have you gone, LeBron James, and when are you coming back? Where is the offensive dominance that makes defenders and rims quake? Where is the greatest player in the NBA and one of its most prolific scorers when the Heat needs him the most, which is right now? When will the league’s Most Valuable Player start being that on his own team again? Forget “remember the Alamo.” Heat fans today are trying to remember the LeBron James who makes the highlight reels not for a pass or a rebound or a block – but for a dunk-festooned game of 35 or 40 points. Only James could accomplish something last done in the NBA Finals by Celtics goateed great Bill Russell in flower-power 1969 and still leave the impression that he is underperforming, that he has somehow been a disappointment. Welcome to LeBron’s world. For him, sometimes even great isn’t good enough, so you know THIS isn’t. For him, sometimes when the brain tries to tell you he is doing enough, the gut knows better: He must do more.
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: For every botched possession, for every missed rotation, the Spurs made them pay Tuesday, championship-tested, fueled by the 2-3-2 format that could have them in position to close this out on their floor on Sunday night. "They played with more force, more focus," Spoelstra said. Odds are, the Heat will look far different in Thursday's Game 4, because that's who they are, who they have been. Odds are every Chris Bosh blocked shot won't turn into aDanny Green 3-pointer. But it's a game that's getting somewhat old and getting somewhat dangerous. "The only thing that matters," Spoelstra said, "is we're down 2-1 and we did not bring anywhere near our best game tonight. I did not recognize the team that was out there." Yes, there have not been consecutive losses since Jan. 8 and Jan. 10. We get that. But even that might not be enough. … Now the question is whether the Heat can make it back to South Florida with a season still in progress. We've learned by now to never doubt LeBron. But what he is facing this series is something far more maniacal than what Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has thrown at him in recent postseasons, more than the Pacers' Frank Vogel conjured in the previous round.
  • Chris Herrington of the Memphis Flyer: Jason Levien needs to shore up his public diplomacy: I have little doubt that Levien ran this move by players, minority owners, and others around the organization and knew a coaching change would not cause a revolt. But the Grizzlies are at once private enterprise and public trust, and the community needs a fuller and more personal explanation than the brief, antiseptic press release the team put out Monday night. Levien needs to explain this decision, in direct but polite terms. For better or worse — and I think it's some of both — this is a “speak to the Rotary Club, hobnob at the college football game, banter on the radio shows” kind of market. Incumbent general manager Chris Wallace, in addition to being a quality basketball man, had mastered this public role, one reason I always thought the new regime would have been wise to incorporate him more fully in the decision-making process and try to keep him around. Levien is a bright man undertaking a big job, but he needs work in this area. … This is about the future: This coaching change won't alter the Grizzlies' projection for next season in the minds of most who follow the NBA closely. Coaches matter, but rosters matter much more. What fans need to understand is that the Grizzlies were heading into a period of transition even without a coaching change. How the new ownership and front office manages this transition — not just this offseason but in the next couple as well — will determine their ultimate success or failure.
  • John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News: Sports agents should be afraid, very afraid. If reports are true and NBA superstar Kevin Durant, of the Oklahoma City Thunder, is about to the sign with Roc Nation Sports, a new playa has entered the field of sports representation, and he might be the best hustler of them all. … Apparently, Roc Nation didn't have to show its mettle before a legitimate superstar decided to climb on board. Durant is an NBA megastar. Besides LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, perhaps no NBA player has a higher global profile than the charismatic Durant. This could be a game-changer for Roc Nation Sports. Think about it. … The threat that Roc Nation Sports presents to the sports representation hierarchy is why I believe the NFL Players Association has accused Jay-Z, who is not yet licensed to be an agent, of acting in the role of a runner in the recruitment of Smith. NBA agents should be just as leery. After the 2013-14 season, superstar players such as James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Paul George, Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade and John Wall will be in some sort of renegotiation position. Those players will be paying attention to what Roc Nation does to raise Durant's profile and fatten his bank account. If they like what they see, a lot of agents could have more than 99 problems as they watch clients jump ship for Jay-Z.
  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: While so much uncertainty dribbling around the Celtics these days — uh, heard any good Doc Rivers rumors lately? — the club is fully expecting to be improved in at least one position next season. Not only will they be better at point guard when Rajon Rondo returns from ACL surgery, but Danny Ainge believes this version of Rondo, when healthy, will be a notch above the one voted an Eastern Conference All-Star starter. The Celtics president of basketball operations knows that Rondo was paying attention when he was out, seeing how the team did better at first when not relying so heavily on one ballhandler and then noting how much he was missed during the postseason. “I think Rondo is a smart guy, and he got to see the strengths and weaknesses of our team and the players,” said Ainge. “I think he actually started to see it even before he was out, but when you’re out, you can see things in your team and your teammates that maybe you didn’t see before. You see players that are capable of doing some things that maybe you weren’t sure they could do. I think that’s always helpful. Doc and I have both talked to Rajon about what he can do to get better and what he needs to do. And Rondo’s a smart kid on his own. He doesn’t listen to everything you say, but he’s got his own ideas of what he can do to get better, as well. He’s very observant, very street-smart and very basketball-smart, too.”
  • Doug Smith of the Toronto Star: Haven’t heard precisely why from anyone on the record but a planned free agent camp in Toronto this coming weekend has been cancelled. It wasn’t all that big a deal, a lot of projects in to see if the HOTH could find some summer league fodder – and perhaps some diamond in the rough – but it would have been the first chance for Dwane (Casey)and his staff to do any coaching under Masai’s general managership and now that’s not going to happen. It had been scheduled for weeks and I would think maybe Masai looked at the roster that’d been assembled, saw where he was in his own evaluation process and figured it wasn’t worth the hassle, or the cost, to get it done. And with the waves of uncertainty still washing over the franchise, I can see that making sense. Masai and Dwane still have to sit down and have some more heart-to-heart discussions (and that’s what Masai said would happen the day he was introduced), the coaching staff remains very much in limbo with less than three weeks until the contracts of all the assistants run out, and the front office and scouting staff still has to be assembled. One thing has to happen this week, I’d say. While I fully expect Dwane to stick around and that’s pretty much what Masai said that day in Toronto, I think some public pronouncement about the head coach and his staff is in order. There was just enough uncertainty out of that original news conference that no clear message was delivered; now that everyone’s in and settled, it’s time to clear everything up.
  • Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times: The NBA wants to stop teams from tampering with soon-to-be free agents. Three franchises were nailed Monday, including the Atlanta Hawks and Houston Rockets for making it known that Dwight Howard and Chris Paul were on their offseason wish list. But several Bulls players wished the league luck trying to stop it. Taj Gibson said that Miami Heat star LeBron Jamestried to recruit him last offseason before Gibson and the Bulls agreed on an extension. Nazr Mohammed said recruiting is “happening everywhere with the players.’’ That’s what the NBA fears. The league can punish teams if it’s coming from the front office, but if it’s the players recruiting each other, good luck. “I know [the league office] doesn’t like to hear this, but ultimately it’s good for the league,’’ Mohammed said. “You got guys that like each other, want to play with each other. Why not? The collective-bargaining agreement is going to settle some of it, but guys are going to take huge paycuts to play with their friends.’’ Further evidence that Derrick Rose needs to start recruiting if he wants help.
  • David Mayo of MLive.com: Dear Maurice Cheeks: Welcome to Detroit. Kind of. You've been in the NBA long enough to know the Detroit Pistons don't really play in Detroit. Not even in the same county as Detroit. Heck of a limo ride from the airport to the arena, isn't it? On the bright side, the team charter is housed in Pontiac, so there's that. Then, there's the job as Pistons head coach, which you accepted Monday. You get the same core time that Lawrence Frank got before you, three years with a team option for a fourth, neither of which he quite made. That's how it's been done around here for a while. The Pistons treat coaches the way their coaches should treat housing decisions: They rent, don't buy. You walk into a pretty good mess here but you also know there's some potential, if your bosses can talk some good players into taking all this money they have to spend. … The only way to sell it is to start winning. Except after years of losing culture, that isn't easy to do. I know it's a process, you know it's a process. But on the Pistons coaching plan, the process gets rewired every two years. Here's hoping you get more time. Best of luck, coach. It won't be easy. But nothing worth doing is, right?
  • Dwight Jaynes of CSNNW.com: When I heard that Maurice Cheeks had landed another job as a head coach in the NBA, my instant reaction, quite honestly, was: "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!" Followed by, "HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!" Yes, really. This time it was the Detroit Pistons who were casual or naive enough in their job search to hire the man whom I consider, hands down, to be the worst coach in Trail Blazer history and probably one of the worst I've ever seen in the NBA. And while it's possible that no quality coach would accept that Detroit job, the Pistons could have done so much better. What's wrong with Cheeks, you say? Well, I've covered the NBA since the days when Jack Ramsay was roaming the Blazer sidelines in paisley pants. And I don't think since that time I've seen a coach as poorly informed, as casual about his duties and as lazy as Cheeks. NBA head coach? He should have been charged with identity theft. … There's a chance this franchise is on the upswing. Maybe Cheeks, in his tenure as an assistant at Oklahoma City, has learned some lessons. We shall see. So good luck, Detroit. I'll be watching. And trying to keep from giggling.
  • Mac Engel of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Since Mark Cuban bought the Mavs no one in the NBA has leaned on the league for a better product, from the fan experience to the refs to now - no flopping. Refs in the NBA have sucked for years, they still do, because it's an impossible job and the only good ref is the one you don't notice. It's odd - when the Mavs won the NBA title in 2011, the refs were incredible. Probably just a coincidence. Now Cuban is working on the widespread epidemic of NBA flopping by granting $100K to SMU to solve this massive crisis. Only there is no solution, even the best player Cuban agrees this is a fruitless exercise. "I think we're trying; you're never going to get rid of it but you have to limit it," Dirk Nowitzki told a small group of reporters on Monday at a Dallas YMCA. "I think it's also part of sports. In any sports, it's a part. It's part of winning. Some people are smart; some people do a little extra thing to sell a call. To me, that's part of sports. You don't want to be obvious; the really, really bad ones you'd love to get rid of those. But if someone does get shoved or hit a little bit, just to sell it to the referees gives the call, I don't have a problem with that. That's part of the game. But the really obvious when there is nothing happening, and he doesn't get hit and he falls down, we do need to eliminate those." Even with the NBA issuing stiffer fines against the floppers, nothing has really stopped guys who are getting grazed turning the ensuing reaction into a cannon shot to the face. Because, as Dirk says, it's part of sports.
  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: Kentucky center Nerlens Noel will visit the Cavaliers on June 20, a source confirmed to The Plain Dealer on Tuesday. The date has been rumored in various media outlets, but the Cavs do not announce their pre-draft interview schedule and would not confirm the appointment. The Cavs have the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft on June 27, and Noel has been rumored to be the likely No. 1 choice, although he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in February. Reportedly he also broke the growth plate in the same knee in high school. … Should Noel not be the No. 1 pick, other options could be Kansas' Ben McLemore, Georgetown's Otto Porter Jr., UNLV's Anthony Bennett or Indiana's Victor Oladipo. The Cavs, who have stated they intend to make the playoffs next season, also could look at trading the pick to bring in a veteran or to move down in the draft.
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: David Falk, the agent for Georgetown’s Otto Porter, confirmed to the Observer by text message Tuesday that Porter will only work out for the top three teams in the draft. That means the Bobcats at No. 4 won’t get a visit from Porter. It also suggests the Washington Wizards, with the third pick, are the floor for where Porter will land in the June 27 NBA draft. The Wizards have a strong need for a small forward, and Porter’s ties to the Washington area, via Georgetown, make him a logical selection for the Wizards. If Porter is off the board before the Bobcats pick, then they will have access to at least two of four other top prospects: Nerlens Noel of Kentucky, Ben McLemore of Kansas, Anthony Bennett of Nevada-Las Vegas and Victor Oladipo of Indiana.
  • John Rohde of The Oklahoman: Pittsburgh center Steven Adams posted the above video of his trip to Oklahoma City on June 2 after his physical exam with the Thunder and the day before his workout with the team. Adams planned to share a video of the Thunder’s world-class facility and any OKC players he might come across. However, All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook advised Adams not to do so. Adams complied and now knows the protective ways of the Thunder. While many organizations are more than happy to share workout information, no such luck with the Thunder, which will always be clandestine in its approach under general manager Sam Presti.

TrueHoop TV: Things are getting floppy

May, 29, 2013
5/29/13
2:22
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive

NBA's new playoff flopping rules

April, 18, 2013
4/18/13
2:25
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
A press release from the NBA:
The NBA has set the league’s anti-flopping disciplinary schedule to be used during the 2013 Playoffs, NBA Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations Stu Jackson announced today.

“Flopping” is defined as any physical act that appears to have been intended to cause the referees to call a foul on another player. The primary factor in determining whether a player committed a flop is whether his physical reaction to contact with another player is inconsistent with what would reasonably be expected given the force or direction of the contact.

The NBA’s anti-flopping rule, adopted at the beginning of the 2012-13 season, had 24 violations during the 2012-13 regular season. Fourteen players received warnings while five players received a $5,000 fine for violating the anti-flopping rule twice.

Physical acts that constitute legitimate basketball plays (such as moving to a spot in order to draw an offensive foul) and minor physical reactions to contact are not deemed to be flops.

Any player who is determined to have committed a flop during the 2013 Playoffs will be subject to the following:
  • Violation 1: $5,000 fine
  • Violation 2: $10,000 fine
  • Violation 3: $15,000 fine
  • Violation 4: $30,000 fine

If a player violates the anti-flopping rule five times or more, he will be subject to discipline that is reasonable under the circumstances, including an increased fine and/or suspension.

This is not so different from the league's regular-season anti-flopping program, although a key difference is that in the regular season every player's first offense was granted with only a warning. Now the fines start immediately and quickly get steep.

Whether or not such a program is effective depends entirely on how active the league is in noticing and punishing flops.

In the regular season they spotted one flop for every 51 games played. (That's one for roughly every 25,000 minutes of player time on the court.) At that rate, the whole playoffs will feature a grand total of two flops. In other words, the entire anti-flopping effort would amount to a couple of $5,000 holes in a couple of guys' wallets -- but no real need for any flopper to change strategy.

There are other ways the flopping program could be better. Why wait until after the game is over to review three seconds of video that affect the game in real time? That delay means, for instance, that effectively there are no flopping rules worth worrying about for any team facing elimination. Or, picture Game 7 of the NBA Finals, when any flop would be punished next season. Flop away, gentlemen.

And finally, I'm not a fan of any of these NBA rules (for instance, with technical totals) that accumulate through the playoffs. The risk of a five-flops-in-the-playoffs suspension is effectively zero for every NBA player -- except maybe those on very top contending teams that expect to play a couple dozen games. If you play for the Thunder, Spurs or Heat, in other words, you're facing anti-flopping, anti-technical and anti-flagrant pressure no other team has. It also means that if anyone is to get suspended, it's most likely in the Finals, when fans would most appreciate having them on the court.

Hardly seems like the smartest set up, but of course it's better than no punishment at all -- which is how the NBA treated flops before this season.

Flopera

April, 18, 2013
4/18/13
1:08
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive

Does the league still care about flopping?

March, 21, 2013
3/21/13
9:50
AM ET
Mason By Beckley Mason
ESPN.com
Archive
Chris Paul
Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images
Chris Paul, a candidate for MVP of flopping, hasn't been punished.

The NBA began the season with a new rule against flopping, and the early indications were it made a difference.

Since 2013 began, however, the NBA has cited a mere four flops, out of close to 25,000 minutes of live ball play. Here they are, with video:
Considering that the league issued a total of 12 warnings and fines in the first two months of the season, that could be a sign the rule is doing its job, and players are flopping less.

But on the other hand, it's not that hard to find examples of flops that are going unpunished. A sampling:
Subjective observations suggests that the league, as a whole, on the season, has less flopping. But there's also evidence that the NBA is becoming increasingly lax in its policing.

The playoffs, when flopping rates are usually at their season-high, are just around the corner. Teams value every possession more in the playoffs, and therefore the incentive to flop will be high. And the league's flopping policy has always had the flaw that fines and sanctions are only handed down after the game, so a key flop still might win some team or another a playoff game.

Now seems like the right time to make clear the best game plans should not involve flops.

Also, the way the league has punished flopping has not helped to combat the perception that superstars are largely immune. The biggest name on the list of floppers this season is Tony Parker. Meanwhile the player with one of the greatest flopping reputations, Paul, has gotten off entirely, despite video evidence that he hasn't changed his style much. The league has an excellent opportunity right now to prove stars like Paul can get in flop trouble, too.

Flop of the night: C.J. Watson

January, 24, 2013
1/24/13
1:58
PM ET
Mason By Beckley Mason
ESPN.com
Archive
NAME OF PLAYER
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images
C.J. Watson's big game against Minnesota included a memorable flop against J.J. Barea.

It's rare for a flopper to confess. But that's just what C.J. Watson did Wednesday night following the Nets win over Minnesota.

With the game in the balance in the fourth quarter, Watson showed renowned flopper J.J. Barea how it's done. It was indeed a maneuver we've seen from Barea, who is a master at using his lack of size to get under a dribbling player then hit the deck on any contact.

In this instance, Watson bodied up to Barea, practically jumping into him, and when the 5-10 point guard used his off arm to get space, Watson flew backward (Video).

Barea was so incensed by the call that he earned a delay of game when he almost literally took his ball and went home.

In a postgame interview, Watson discussed his flop (via The Brooklyn Game): "He's a flopping guy, so I just tried to give him a dose of his own medicine."

Watson added: "It worked tonight. I hope I don't get fined though."

Flop of the night: John Henson

January, 16, 2013
1/16/13
3:13
PM ET
Mason By Beckley Mason
ESPN.com
Archive
NAME OF PLAYER
Gary Dineen/Getty Images
Henson doesn't yet have the heft to deal with Dwight Howard inside.

At 6-11 and just 220 pounds, John Henson may not be cut out to bang with all 265 muscular pounds of Dwight Howard in the paint. On Tuesday night the same could be said for the rest of the Bucks big men, too, as Howard scored all 14 of his buckets within seven feet of the rim.

Henson certainly couldn't handle Howard's power, so he evidently came up with another plan: Flop!

Watch for the last angle on this video as Henson hits the deck when Howard rumbles to the basket -- his head whips back his arms flail, but Henson actually braces against Howard with both hands before propelling himself backward.

This flop would appear to meet the league's requirements for a gross exaggeration of contact intended to fool an official, so Henson may soon be hearing from the NBA league office.

If he does, it will be the first such warning issued in more than two weeks -- since December 29th, when the league issued warnings to Gustavo Ayon, Tony Parker and Royal Ivey.

Has the league gone soft on floppers in 2013? Could be. But that lull is surely also at least in part because the rule is making a difference. Last year, it was a cinch to spot egregious flops nightly. This year, to the naked eye anyway, they're much harder to find.

First Cup: Thursday

December, 20, 2012
12/20/12
5:39
AM ET
By Nick Borges
ESPN.com
Archive
  • Howard Beck of The New York Times: In the beginning, there was intrigue — catchy slogans, competing chants and visions of a basketball rivalry that would split New York. It was interesting, for a moment or two. By the time the Knicks and the Nets met Wednesday night — for the third installment of the battle of the boroughs, or the East River rivalry, or whatever name sticks — the hype balloon had deflated considerably. By the final buzzer, the buzz had died entirely, along with the not-ready-for-Broadway Nets. Carmelo Anthony returned to the Knicks’ lineup and powered them to a 100-86 rout at Madison Square Garden, sending the Nets to their third straight loss and placing ever more distance between New York’s presumed rivals. The Knicks (19-6) have a six-game lead in the standings and a 2-1 lead in the series. The Nets are plummeting, having lost 8 of 10 games. A rivalry? It hardly felt that way.
  • Marc Berman of the New York Post: There isn’t a doubt any longer which borough is home to the best basketball team or the city’s best player. The Brooklyn commute to Manhattan can be a bear, and Wednesday night it became a disastrous trip for the struggling Nets in their first-ever foray to the Garden with “Brooklyn’’ written across their chests. The Knicks got back their main man Carmelo Anthony and they got back their dominant ways at the Garden as he dropped 31 points on the Nets in a 100-86 rout. “We wanted to make a statement,” said center Tyson Chandler, who nearly tore down the Garden rims in a flurry of violent dunks that resulted in his 16 points and 12 rebounds. And that statement was? “That we’re New York’s team,’’ Raymond Felton said. Touche.
  • Elliott Teaford of the Los Angeles Daily News: Clippers owner Donald T. Sterling led his team with old-fashioned cheers of "Hip-Hip-Hooray," but there were no bottles of champagne in the locker room after a 93-77 victory Wednesday over the New Orleans Hornets extended their winning streak to a franchise record-tying 11 games. In fact, Sterling's unusual postgame visit to congratulate his team was the only semblance of a celebration of the streak. After all, the Clippers (19-6) have greater goals in mind than matching the modest success of their ancient cousins, the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves. "We can't be satisfied," point guard Chris Paul later said of the streak. "It's great for the fans, but we can't be satisfied. Food tastes better, music sounds better, you sleep a little better, everything is better when you're winning. "We've just got to keep it going." The Clippers will try for a franchise-record 12 th consecutive victory when they host the Sacramento Kings on Friday. It's not a streak to challenge the Lakers' league-record mark of 33 consecutive wins, but given the team's inglorious history it's something to build on. Then again, maybe it's not.
  • Ronald Tillery of The Commercial-Appeal: Griz point guard Mike Conley could have been a visitor Wednesday night when the Bucks invaded FedExForum. That is, if a January 2009 trade had been consummated. The Griz considered trading Conley to Milwaukee for journeyman Ramon Sessions and former NBA player Joe Alexander but were rebuffed by the Bucks. Fast forward to this season: Conley entered Wednesday night needing just eight assists to pass Jason Williams (2,069 from 2001-05, 2010-11) as the franchise's career leader in assists. Conley is enjoying his best NBA season, averaging career highs in scoring (14 points), steals (2.4, 2nd) and three-point field goal percentage (.427). Conley leads the team in assists (6.1, which tied 17th in the NBA) for the sixth consecutive season.
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: On Wednesday, the day a grassroots campaign began asking for fans to vote Glen Davis into the all-star game as a write-in candidate, he gets hurt. The Magic's 290-pound power forward sustained a shoulder injury late in the fourth quarter, and it looked serious. Tests have to be run, but if Davis is out for any length of time, the Magic will lose their most potent and consistent inside presence. Davis is having a career season. He has been putting up numbers since late last season, when he replaced Dwight Howard, who was sidelined with a back injury. He left holding his shoulder, and to me it was reminiscent to how Jameer Nelson wrecked his shoulder in 2009, tearng his rotator cuff and bicep. We'll see how severe the damage might be. What does Jacque Vaughn do as long as Davis is out? He has few options. … Coach Jacque Vaughn's best option is Andrew Nicholson, 6-9, 250 pounds.
  • Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: The numbers back it up. After that second-half collapse against Milwaukee on Nov. 26, the Bulls owned a 6-7 record and were allowing 93.4 points per game. Since that night they've given up 86.7 points in the last 11 games and gone 8-3. After beating Boston on Tuesday, the Bulls ranked second in the league in points allowed and second in defensive field-goal percentage. … What's interesting about Thibodeau's system is once again he has taken poor individual defenders and created a strong team defense. Back in 2010, Boozer and Kyle Korver were the weak links. This year's squad might be even worse when it comes to individual defense. Boozer is about the same, while Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli can struggle badly in certain matchups. And backup center Nazr Mohammed brings none of Omer Asik's intimidation. There is a mix of strong defenders with Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah. Still, this group is starting to get it done. Tough games are on tap this weekend at New York and Atlanta. For now, though, at 14-10 the Bulls are ahead of Brooklyn, Boston, Philadelphia and Indiana in the Eastern Conference standings.
  • Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle: Media and fans continually discuss the Jeremy Lin-James Harden combination. Will they be able to play as one? Do their similar traits hinder Houston’s overall offense? Coach Kevin McHale, Lin and Harden again said Wednesday time will take care of everything. And Houston’s coach was more concerned about the Rockets’ defense than the on-the-court relationship between the team’s star point guard and shooting guard. “A lot of our offensive flow is predicated on our defense,” McHale said. “If we can get stops, we can get out and go – we’re just much, much better.” Kevin McHale was less willing to discuss rookie forward Royce White, who’s yet to play for and doesn’t have a timetable for activation. “I hope that Royce just gets himself ready to come in and be part of an NBA team,” McHale said.
  • John Reid of The Times-Picayune: After missing all 25 games this season because of recurring problems with his right knee, New Orleans Hornets shooting guard Eric Gordon will rejoin the team in New Orleans on Saturday after spending a month going through extensive rehabilitation work in Los Angeles. Hornets General Manager Dell Demps said the team won't make a determination when Gordon will play his first game until after he goes through a couple of practices with his teammates. Gordon predicted Wednesday he will make his debut before the end of this month. Gordon said his right knee problems stemmed from having both a patella tendon disorder and bone bruise. It’s the same knee that Gordon had arthroscopic surgery on last February, which forced him to miss all but nine games after he was acquired in the blockbuster Chris Paul trade from the Los Angeles Clippers.
  • Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe: The Celtics were pleased with how Avery Bradley fared in practice on Monday. He’ll practice again this weekend as the club prepares for a four-game trip that starts in Brooklyn on Christmas Day. Bradley, who had surgery on both shoulders in the offseason, said trainers have targeted Jan. 2 for his return. “That’s what I’m hoping for,” said Bradley, “the next home game after the West Coast trip. I doubt [I would play during that trip] knowing [trainer] Ed [Lacerte]. He sticks to the schedule and that’s what he’s been saying, around January, so we’ll see how I feel.”
  • Mike Wells of The Indianapolis Star: Pacers center Roy Hibbert’s offensive problems this season have been well documented. And despite those struggles, Vogel said he will stick with Hibbert over Ian Mahinmi late in games. Mahinmi had 14 points off the bench against Milwaukee compared to Hibbert’s eight points on 4-of-10 shooting. Still, Vogel went with Hibbert at the end of the game because he’s the anchor of their defense. “We always consider going with the hot hand,” Vogel said. “There are things that Roy brings to the table that Ian doesn’t that have won for us at a high level the last couple of years. Typically we’re going to go with him unless there’s an extreme example.”
  • Eric Koreen of the National Post: At some point this season, there is likely a major change coming for the Toronto Raptors. Whether it is a resignation or a firing or a trade of a core player, this season started too poorly for all of the figures to remain entrenched within the organization. Probably. However, everybody involved with the Raptors for the last, let us say, 18 years has spent far too much time focusing on the future and potential change down the road. So, why not celebrate the good times? The Toronto Raptors have won four games in a row. Now, the Mavericks, Rockets, Cavaliers and Pistons do not represent a murderer’s row of elite NBA teams. However, when the Raptors beat Detroit 97-91 on Wednesday night, it was the first time they strung together four wins since November 2010.
  • Ethan J. Skolnick of the Palm Beach Post: It’s better for Miami to get what it got Tuesday in its 103-92 win against Minnesota. That’s when Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole shared the full 48, not only pushing the Timberwolves but pushing each other. This prescription might come as a surprise to read in this space. About a month ago, as Cole was struggling on the Heat’s first long trip, I suggested shelving him for a spell. And throughout the season, it’s been hard not to notice Chalmers’ slippage, whether in on-ball defense or long-range accuracy. Lately, though, both have shown positive signs. Start with Chalmers, whose left ring finger, injured in Washington on Dec. 4, has been more of an impediment than the Heat have intimated. According to sources, he could have opted for surgery for a torn tendon, but instead played in the next game, in part out of concern that he would lose more minutes, and perhaps even a starting spot, to Cole.
  • David Mayo of MLive.com: Detroit Pistons coach Lawrence Frank gets asked about Andre Drummond at every stop along the NBA trail, and when hit again tonight with a similar query, he intimated that there are things that occur beyond public view which have contributed to capping the rookie center's playing time. … "When we don't play Andre 18 minutes, the reporters (who cover the Pistons regularly) have pictures of me up all around town -- and the fans, too," said Frank, who used that benchmark because Valanciunas played 18 minutes in the Raptors win Tuesday at Cleveland. "But the thing is, there are certain things that we're privy to things that maybe the general public isn't. There's a lot of things we see and understand the big picture. Not that there's a right way or wrong way, but it's the way we choose it. Plus, there are other guys who may also be doing their jobs as well."
  • Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was on the NBA's Competition Committee that helped get the "flopping" rule implemented. Carlisle admits that coaches, players and front-office personnel just want a level playing field, and "flopping" unfairly tilts the field. … So far, only nine players have suffered the consequences from flopping. And a pair of Brooklyn Nets forwards -- Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace -- are the only players with more than one flop. Evans and Wallace have each been charged with two flops, and have been fined $5,000 apiece. Also, Minnesota's J.J. Barea, Cleveland's Donald Sloan, Oklahoma City's Kevin Martin, Atlanta's Zaza Pachulia, Houston's Patrick Patterson and Omer Asik, and Chauncey Billups of the Los Angeles Clippers have each received one flopping warning infraction. … "Generally speaking, the guys that are the floppers are smart guys," Carlisle said. "They're smart because they try to positively affect the game by fooling the referees. Well, they're also smart when it comes to the fact that they're going to get hit with fines that are going to increase with each additional incident. To this point, [the flopping rule has] been a very successful endeavor."
  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: Wolves coach Rick Adelman had five point guards -- Porter, Stockton, Magic Johnson, Kevin Johnson and Tim Hardaway -- on the West team he led in the 1991 NBA All-Star game, but even a group like that didn't have the collective clout as today's point guards. He attributes that to rules that don't allow defenders to place a hand on driving guards and on officiating that doesn't call illegal screens like it once did. "The league is a pick-and-roll league now, and it didn't used to be," Adelman said. "It gives the point guard more of an opportunity to really become an impact player. They used to be secondary and maybe they got assists. Now he scores, he gets assists, he does everything." The game always has had its share of gifted point guards. Golden State coach Mark Jackson ticks off a long list of the famous and the underrated (Gary Payton, Hardaway, Rod Strickland, Derek Harper, Dennis Johnson) from when he played back in the proverbial day, without even mentioning himself. "I don't think it's fair to compare because there's always been a lot of great ones," Jackson said, "but this group is special." It is special in its sheer growing numbers and in the evolution of bigger, stronger, quicker players such as Westbrook, Chicago's Derrick Rose and Boston's Rajon Rondo, players whom Sacramento coach Keith Smart considers more like football running backs and receivers than your traditional 6-foot point guard.
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: Rookie forward Bernard James, who spent six years in the Air Force and rose in rank to Staff Sergeant during three tours of duty in the Middle East, visited wounded soldiers Wednesday at the Veterans Administration Medical Center. James, who served in Iraq, Qatar and Afghanistan, spread holiday cheer and gifts from Albertsons, the Mavericks, the NBA, On The Border, Whataburger and other sponsors. James said he wanted to bring attention to the important work being done by military personnel and the sacrifices they make for freedom.
  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: When Violet Palmer and Dee Kantner became the first female officials in any major American sports league in 1997, it was groundbreaking and attention-jarring. Kantner did not last but Palmer has stayed on long enough to see a follower. The best tribute to the modern sports world is that Brenda Pantoja, who worked Wednesday’s Suns game, and Lauren Holtkamp cracked the NBA officiating crews with little fanfare. Pantoja, Holtkamp and four men were top D-League officials who are non-staff additions for the season’s first three months.

Rajon Rondo's fanciest trick

December, 13, 2012
12/13/12
2:13
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
Rajon Rondo
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Rajon Rondo out-thinks people all the time -- sometimes including referees.

Mavericks guard Derek Fisher fouled out with 1:07 left in the first overtime on what was, in slow-motion, a whopper of a flop by Rajon Rondo. Fisher appeared to do nothing more than rest a hand on Rondo's back. Feeling the contact, Rondo exploded away as if shoved ... and earned a whistle.

Saddled with his sixth foul, an aghast Fisher took a seat and watched from the bench as his team lost a nail-biter.

The Fisher foul was a small play that didn't merit mention in many of the game recaps. But it was huge in certain respects:
  • Fisher is a legendary flopper in his own right. His shock that the referees fell for Rondo's play comes with a certain rough justice.
  • Fisher is no All-Star, but he had plenty of impact on this game, including the key defensive stop, on Rondo, at the end of regulation.
  • The Mavericks are owned by Mark Cuban, who is rich, loud and a bit obsessed with how the league ought to be run. Both by complaining in public, and by advocating behind the scenes, he has been a major influence over NBA refereeing over the last decade.
  • The victims of the flop, the Mavericks, lost.
  • As a double-overtime game that the Celtics won by two, every play of the entire game, including this one, was arguably a game-deciding play. Not to mention the Mavericks had some late turnovers that, it's easy to imagine, could have been avoided with the most veteran of point guards in the game.

In other words, the NBA has both a new video-enforced rule banning flops and a game that was potentially decided by a flop that was obvious on video.

You'd hope it would be one or the other, right? Not both?

And this is what has always bothered me about the NBA's good, but not great, new flopping rule. It assumes that video replay is enough to know who is and is not flopping. Once you arrive at that point, how can you tolerate any delay? The video that convinced me Rondo had flopped was broadcast nationwide seconds after it happened and long before Fisher had even taken his seat. In other words, just about everyone (certainly including fans watching at home, Jeff Van Gundy, Rondo and Fisher) knew that the last few minutes of that game were illegitimate -- played fairly, the Mavericks would have had one more player at their disposal. That the game's officials -- Joe Crawford, Derrick Collins and Mark Lindsay -- didn't get to be on that list is a crying shame.

I assume Rondo will hear from the NBA about this flop. It's the kind of play that has been getting attention. And that's an improvement over last year, when nobody would have done anything.

But it does little to explain why, if the NBA knows that play was a flop, the last few minutes of that game were played without Fisher. I'm not advocating stopping the game for more video review. I'm saying whatever video review the NBA is doing now -- quietly, off in some back room -- do it in a matter of seconds so it could really be useful.

Flop of the night: Chauncey Billups

December, 4, 2012
12/04/12
2:16
PM ET
Mason By Beckley Mason
ESPN.com
Archive
Chauncey Billups
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty ImagesChauncey Billups deployed veteran trickery to great effect Monday night.
Chauncey Billups is a high risk to receive a flopping warning from the NBA league office after his egregious "roughing the punter" flop -- the very same flop that played a critical role in the Clippers beating the Jazz Monday night.

Utah, which lost by a single point, would probably prefer the win to the flopping warning, but you get what you can get in this league.

The Billups flop (Video) came with only 75 seconds left to play in the game, with the Jazz clinging to a two-point lead. After Chris Paul almost lost possession and had to save the ball to Blake Griffin, the Clippers offense was in total disarray. Billups found himself with the ball during a possession that seemed to be going Utah's way. As Billups elevated to shoot, Mo Williams flew out to contest the shot, while taking special care to avoid the shooting Billups.

Billups, however, needed points any way he could get them, and therefore -- the video shows -- kicked his leg out and tumbled to the ground as though Williams had run right through him. Referee Dick Bavetta, whose view of Williams was obscured by Billups, awarded the Clipper guard three critical free throws. Billups hit two, tying the game.

Many plays contributed to the Jazz loss, but it's hard not to feel Bavetta's call had outsized impact, even though it was a call that anyone watching on TV could clearly see was a mistake. The replay was aired before a single free throw had been attempted. Hundreds of thousands of TV viewers could have correctly reversed the call on the spot. But thanks to NBA rules, the game's officials had no access to that replay in real time, and so Billups got his free throws.

When you see an egregious flop that deserves proper recognition, send us a link to the video so we can consider it for Flop of the Night. Here's how to make your submission:
  • Alert HoopIdea to super flops with the Twitter hashtag #FlopOfTheNight (follow us on Twitter here).
  • Use the #FlopOfTheNight hashtag in Daily Dime Live.
  • E-mail us at hoopidea@gmail.com

Flop of the Night: J.J. Barea

November, 28, 2012
11/28/12
12:43
PM ET
Mason By Beckley Mason
ESPN.com
Archive
J.J. Barea
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images
J.J. Barea kept flopping against the Kings until it paid off.

Three weeks after receiving a warning from the NBA for flopping, J.J. Barea earned #FlopOfTheNight honors (Video) for his acting work against the Isaiah Thomas of Sacramento Kings. The battle of diminutive point guard turned heated in the fourth quarter when Thomas yelled at Barea to stop flopping after Barea flew backwards as Thomas elevated for a pull up jump shot.

The officials didn't bite, and the Timberwolves guard actually walked over to the refs during a timeout to plead his case. Thomas followed close behind, eager to hear what Barea had to say.

Just a couple minutes later, Thomas again drove towards the rim and this time, when Barea bucked backwards as though Thomas had given him a brutal stiff arm, the officials gave Barea the call.

The play looked awfully similar to the flop that earned Barea his warning back on November 6th, which also featured a driving player (Jimmer Fredette) using his forearm to ward off Barea.

Generously listed at six feet tall, when Barea plays defense it's natural for contact that would land in the mid section of a taller player to hit Barea around the shoulders, thus producing the kind of impact that often draws an offensive foul call. However Thomas is listed at 5-9 and his forearm appears to land below Barea's ribs.

If the NBA deems this instance a violation of the its anti-flopping rules, Barea will be the second player this year to be fined $5,000, after Reggie Evans of the Brooklyn Nets.

When you see an egregious flop that deserves proper recognition, send us a link to the video so we can consider it for Flop of the Night. Here's how to make your submission:
  • Alert HoopIdea to super flops with the Twitter hashtag #FlopOfTheNight (follow us on Twitter here).
  • Use the #FlopOfTheNight hashtag in Daily Dime Live.
  • E-mail us at hoopidea@gmail.com

Flop of the Night: Gerald Wallace

November, 27, 2012
11/27/12
1:13
PM ET
Mason By Beckley Mason
ESPN.com
Archive
Gerald Wallace
Bruce Bennett/NBAE/Getty Images
Gerald Wallace plays, and sometimes acts, with gusto.

When Reggie Evans received the NBA’s first ever flopping fine and cemented his reputation as the league’s most notorious actor, not everyone was pleased. Although he was the victim of Evans' fine-worthy flop, Metta World Peace said Evans’ Brooklyn teammate, Gerald Wallace, was the real flopper.

"That's ridiculous," World Peace said in response to the Evans' punishment, according to a report from ESPN NY’s Mike Mazzeo. "I'd rather Gerald Wallace get fined than Evans."

Well, World Peace may have to settle for a warning after this Flop of the Night (Video) from Wallace during the second half of Brooklyn’s win over the Knicks Monday night.

It’s a classic “exploding pick” flop: Wallace runs right into Chandler, who is pivoting to face the basket with the ball in his hands. The contact is minimal, but that doesn't stop Wallace from violently throwing his head back after crashing into the all-but-stationary Knicks big man. The play erased a wide open Carmelo Anthony jumper in a tight game that ended up going to overtime.

It will be up to the NBA to decide whether Wallace’s flop merits a warning for “overembellishing” the contact -- remember Wallace snapped his head back despite running into Chandler’s hip.

When you see an egregious flop that deserves proper recognition, send us a link to the video so we can consider it for Flop of the Night. Here's how to make your submission:
  • Alert HoopIdea to super flops with the Twitter hashtag #FlopOfTheNight (follow us on Twitter here).
  • Use the #FlopOfTheNight hashtag in Daily Dime Live.
  • E-mail us at hoopidea@gmail.com

The traditional basketball flop

November, 26, 2012
11/26/12
1:47
PM ET
By Beckley Mason and Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Watch LeBron James fly backward with a yell, arms flailing. He wanted to take a charge on Dion Waiters in the Heat's weekend win over the Cavaliers. And he put some theatrics into the project.

But James received little contact from Waiters, and little love from the referees. In an instant he was back on his feet, playing again, as if nothing had happened.

No call.

And not a flop, either -- at least as deemed by the NBA.

The NBA’s video demonstrating what is and is not a flop warns sternly and repeatedly about something called "overembellishment." But plain old embellishment, particularly in attempting to draw a charge, is allowed. The NBA's preseason video reel featured a play like James' from then-Bull Ronnie Brewer: "While there may be a slight embellishment by the defender to draw attention to the marginal contact," intones the narrator, "this is a legitimate basketball play and is a reasonable attempt to draw the charge. This play would not be deemed to be a flop and it will not be penalized."

Here is some tricky territory that begs the question: What is a legitimate basketball play?

Elsewhere in the video the narrator says: "The level of contact on the play is inconsistent with the grossly embellished fall to the floor. This was an illegitimate basketball play ... intended to draw an unearned defensive foul call."

What makes one kind of attempt to fool the referee into thinking “marginal contact” is a big deal legal, and another attempt illegal?

Here's a theory: Tradition. Stepping in front of a driving player, taking some contact in the chest, and then pushing yourself backward to the floor ... that's an ancient practice of American hoops. Coaches have been teaching school kids that particular embellishment for the better part of a century. The coaches, players and administrators who advise the NBA on such things ... they see what James and Brewer did on those plays and see a well-coached young man doing what he has been taught.

Other kinds of flops, though, like a vibrant heliflopter or starfish ... that just seems weird, and it's something people want out of the game, even if the principles involved aren't totally consistent.

Is the flopping rule working?

November, 20, 2012
11/20/12
10:14
AM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
The NBA's anti-flopping rule is a timid one that has been timidly enforced.

And just maybe it's totally working.

Where the league might have done something bold with technology, they did not. (My HoopIdea is they'd bring the off-site anonymous video analysis they're doing post-game into real time. If the league can identify and punish a flopper, why not do so before his flop decides a game?)

Meanwhile, even the timid rule they instituted -- post-game video review results can result in warnings and fines -- has not resulted in any real punishment yet. A grand total of four players (J.J. Barea, Donald Sloan, Kevin Martin and Reggie Evans) have received warnings.

And yet ... to the naked eye it appears the league's rule is having more or less the desired effect of reducing incidents of flopping. A rule that was broadly praised by players when it was announced seems to be having a good effect in the early going.

Last Spring I felt like I could identify at least one certain flop per game, minimum. Any night of NBA action would suffice to come up with a strong #FlopoftheNight. Now we are hundreds of games into the 2012-2013 season and #FlopoftheNight feels a bit over the top. Most of what we're seeing just doesn't rise to that level. Some nights of this season there are no good candidates at all.

Noted anti-flopper and ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy says he's not noticing as many flops either: "It's important that the league stay vigilant in its enforcement to keep the players in line," he points out. "So far it seems to be affecting the players in a positive manner."

Heat forward Shane Battier says this season feels a bit different, but only on one end of the floor. He tells the Heat Index's Tom Haberstroh: "I think offensively, people are less apt to give the ol' 'Oh my gosh, I've just been shot' reaction after minimal contact. Defensively, I don't think it's changed at all. It hasn't changed me, and I don't think it's changed our team. Offensively, people are less apt to act like they've been handled by Jack the Ripper."

Battier was a rare player who expressed skepticism about the rule. "I had trepidations initially," he explains. "I did. But once you're out there, it's the last thing on your mind. If there's a play to be made, you make the play so you don't worry about the reaction."

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra thinks the rules may be causing referees to swallow their whistles on particular plays. "I noticed it last night," he says, "watching some other games, some guys are coming over from the weak side and taking a hit, they're not calling that as much. I don't know if that's subconsciously because of the rules."

Battier's teammate Dwyane Wade says if the rule is having any effect it's because it's in everybody's heads: "Watching games, if a guy takes a regular charge you hear somebody say, 'Flopping!' They messed everybody's head about what flopping really is."

But the bottom line for Wade is that the game has not changed, as he tells Haberstroh: "I haven't seen any difference."

Battier agrees the psychological aspects of the rule are paramount. "I had a discussion with one of the refs about it," he says. "They basically told me to shut up about it and stop talking about flopping. My point was that by talking about it, it has become a psychosomatic, it's become a psychological matter for everybody. They said to just shut up so I did."

Flop of the Night: Reggie Evans

November, 16, 2012
11/16/12
2:55
PM ET
Mason By Beckley Mason
ESPN.com
Archive
Reggie Evans
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe sounds of flopping dance through Reggie Evans' headphones pregame.

The Nets forward was featured multiple times on Flop of the Night last season, and is now known throughout the league as both one of the most physical, and floppiest players.

Perhaps that’s why officials didn’t blink when Evans fell over clutching his forehead (video) after getting tangled up with Celtics rookie Jared Sullinger.

It was a classic “Lock and Flail,” flop: when Sullinger raised his arms to get free of Evans and proclaim his innocence, the cagey big man flipped onto his back. It was enough to fool TNT commentator Marv Albert, who said Evans “took a shot to the head” before replay confirmed otherwise.

Albert’s partner on the broadcast, Steve Kerr, wasn’t buying Evans’ dive from the start, noting that, “Evans was a highlight ... of the NBA’s flopping rule video.”

Twitter’s reaction to Evans’ flop made clear that he is one of the players most associated with trying to fool the refs. As Glen McComb (@lenymo) tweeted: “Reggie Evans with the Flop in #Brooklyn. He was one of the favourites early to receive first flopping fine. Odds just shortened.”

We should find out soon if Evans will be hearing from the NBA about this latest flop.

When you see an egregious flop that deserves proper recognition, send us a link to the video so we can consider it for Flop of the Night. Here's how to make your submission:
  • Alert HoopIdea to super flops with the Twitter hashtag #FlopOfTheNight (follow us on Twitter here).
  • Use the #FlopOfTheNight hashtag in Daily Dime Live.
  • E-mail us at hoopidea@gmail.com

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